Record Label: Aftermath Entertainment
Released without the usual flurry of hype, Before I Self Destruct fulfills 50 Cent's contractual obligation to the Interscope label. It also doubles as a throwback album, returning the rapper to the hunger and hatred of his early mixtapes while skillfully recasting him as a wannabe upstart. That is, for the most part. The four radio-friendly bedroom numbers that conclude the album are out of place but fairly good to dime-piece beautiful, with the best being the Ne-Yo showcase "Baby by Me" ("Have a baby by me, baby/Be a millionaire"). As pleasing as these final numbers are, if you leave the room after the macho bruiser "I Got Swag" ("I'm infinitely special/Girl the Lord is gonna bless you/If you do what I tell you to do"), you'll return to a confusingly different album, one that's as glamorous but less vital.
The monstrous run of tracks that leads up to this flash and polish can be summed up by 50's "This ain't Tha Carter/It's Sparta!," a witty, deceptive, and brutish line barked over a prime Dr. Dre beat during the great "Death to My Enemies." On the cut, the producer sounds like he's been digging on RZA, but the tension and dark-night feel he has created for "Psycho" is easily identifiable as Dre. Add an especially rapid 50 trading horror-show rhymes with Eminem and the G-Unit soldiers will testify that the Shady/Aftermath dream is still alive.
While "So Disrespectful" is the perfect title for a song that shocks, stuns, and brings reminders of the gritty G-Unit Radio mixtape series at its best, the Rick Rock-produced "Stretch" is an even craftier balance of amoral and humorous as it references Plastic Man and Mr. Fantastic before explaining the profitable benefits of cutting cocaine. There are only three guest vocalists, and save a production credit for Havoc, the G-Unit posse is absent, and yet 50 is able to carry the album alone, sounding as inspired as he did on his Interscope debut. That album, Get Rich or Die Tryin', beats this one thanks to its proper balance and structure, but Before I Self Destruct is still a fantastic juggernaut of a 50 album if you exit early, and a very good one even if you don't
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
International tourists and touring artists alike flocked to Fat Beats for rare vinyl, kindred spirits, and exclusive in-store performances from Jay Z, Eminem, Gang Starr, Outkast, Slum Village, Mos Def, and more. One thing was clear: the Fat Beats phenomenon could no longer be contained in a single basement shop.
In the late nineties, Abajian proceeded to open new stores in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. He further expanded the company’s profile to include global distribution and record label branches. Distribution has since proven to be the company’s strongest and most enduring enterprise. Today Fat Beats Distribution stands poised as one of the country’s pre-eminent distributors of vinyl & specialty item records: a proud survivor in an industry now famous for its mortality rate. Despite market fluctuations, technology innovations, and stylistic revolutions, Fat Beats has remained steadfast in its commitment to the timeless vinyl format and to the loyal community who keeps it spinning.
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